As audiences will discover this weekend, it will be a sincere challenge for any new release coming out in the rest of 2021 to match the visual richness of The Green Knight – but it won’t just be the awesome aesthetics that impress. Writer/director David Lowery is a filmmaker who understands the power and potential impact of subtle detail across all aspects of the art form, and it’s what allows his work to shine in many vibrant ways. This very much includes the way in which he works with his actors, and this is perfectly illustrated by the surprising reference material that he gave to Joel Edgerton in the making of the movie.
I had the chance to interview Edgerton and Dev Patel earlier this month during the virtual press day for The Green Knight (as featured in the video atop this article), and my question for the actors at the outset was about the character-centric conversations that they had with David Lowery prior to production. Edgerton, who plays the nameless The Lord in the film, surprised me with his response, and his revelation of where he got inspiration for his performance. Said the actor,
David would send me clips of old British actors. And I found myself going down a YouTube wormhole of watching old, well-known British actors being drunk on talk shows. And I was like, 'All right, this is where my source material is coming from. I'm going to be that guy that's going like, five sheets to the wind into an old school talk show.’
You might not necessarily consider that 20th century talk shows with slurring, venerable guest stars would be specific reference material for a beloved Arthurian legend brought to life on the big screen, but it’s David Lowery’s impressive creative thinking that makes him such an excellent filmmaker, and the choices Joel Edgerton makes in his performance are fantastic.
In the movie, Dev Patel stars as Sir Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur (Sean Harris) and a Knight of the Roundtable desperate to prove his mettle. When a fantastical Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) interrupts a Christmas banquet and offers the room a challenge, Gawain eagerly volunteers and accepts the specific terms: if he is able to land a single blow, he will win the Green Knight’s glorious axe – but in one year’s time he must seek out the man/tree hybrid and receive the same blow in return.
Sir Gawain has multiple encounters on his way to the Green Chapel, the location where he is meant to meet the Green Knight, and this includes a multi-night stay on a palatial estate owned by the aforementioned unnamed The Lord (Joel Edgerton) and The Lady (Alicia Vikander). The Lord is ultimately one of the kinder individuals who Gawain meets on his quest, albeit a bit… silly, and knowing what Edgerton was aiming for as reference only makes his wonderful turn easier to love.
After a long wait caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences will finally be able to experience The Green Knight for themselves this weekend, as the movie is opening in theaters nationwide (and you really should see it, because it’s excellent). Stay tuned for more from my interview with Dev Patel and Joel Edgerton here on CinemaBlend, and check out our 2021 Movie Schedule to learn about all of the films coming out between now and the end of the year.